Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Fundu Lagoon


Barefoot luxury on the untouched Tanzanian island of Pemba

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Fundu Lagoon
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Fundu Lagoon


Located on Pemba Island, North of Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Travel Information

Fly to Abeid Amani Karume International airport, Zanzibar, then take a short flight to Pemba Island followed by a speedboat ride to Fundu Lagoon.

Top Tips

Travelling between August and the end of September to watch Humpback whales as they migrate past the Island.

5-Star X-Factors

Fabulous diving and snorkelling. Drop by to say hello to resident pod of dolphins in the early morning, or take private cruises as the sun sets.

Fundu Lagoon

The only way you can get to Fundu Lagoon is by speed boat. This is a wonderful way to arrive anywhere, but particularly a tropical island. The ride presents you with expanding layers of vivid colours – a periwinkle blue sky at the top, an undulating layer of verdant green below that, then a thin layer of a creamy white and at the bottom, taking up all the space between you and the approaching jetty, a shimmering turquoise. The water is crystal clear, exposing brightly coloured coral and a profusion of fish. The omens already looked good for diving.

We stepped onto the jetty close to a strange looking thatched structure and were greeted with cool towels scented with lemongrass, and a fresh fruit cocktail. As our eyes adjusted to the beauty all around us, it became clear that the strange structure was in fact a bar, but obviously closed, with no sign of drinks, glasses, cushions or people, but were told that we should meet there for sundowners. We then walked onto the island and into the reception building and Fundu's sense of style started to reveal itself.

Fundu Lagoon is an exceptional example of taking all the best from the local culture and putting it together with all you’d expect from a 5-star luxury hotel, but executed with the lightest of touch. Local art, in the form of murals, carved heads and other sculptures, is everywhere. The architecture is ingenious as all the ceiling support structure is made of local wood in an infinite variety of shapes and sizes, with a palm thatched roof and solid wood floors. This gives the impression of being in a Swiss Family Robinson-style treehouse, with the sides completely open to bring in the light and frame the turquoise sea that surrounds you.

Beautiful Villa 17

We were then taken along a beautifully constructed path of soft white sand, covered in a tropical canopy, to our villa, number 17. It was clear that our neighbours were not even within earshot and as we entered the villa, via a short board walk, we couldn’t help laughing with unbridled joy at the sight that greeted us. It was stunningly beautiful! We were standing on a vast deck, with two large thatched structures to our left, constructed in the same fashion as the main building. To our right was a round pool in the deck, under a tree, a couple of cushioned loungers and then steps down to the beach; “our beach” as we were emphatically told, which had on it a palm thatched umbrella and another two loungers.

We turned back to the two large structures. The one on the left was entirely for relaxation during the day with a further two loungers on the bottom deck along with a table and chairs. On the upper deck there was a massive L shaped sofa with stylish scatter cushions and a view straight out to sea. The other building actually houses a luxury tent, exactly the same type as you find in the game parks (of which more later). This made total sense, as it keeps out the mosquitoes and monkeys while still offering everything you would expect from a solid structure - an immense and very comfortable bed, a two person, double-headed shower and so on. Clearly everything had been thought through, with all sorts of welcome little touches, such as the contents of the two generously stocked mini bars being complementary.

We felt immediately at home and headed straight to the sea for a swim. There was a sandy bottom, which made for an effortless entry and within seconds we had washed away the flights and the pressures of modern life. We returned for the jetty bar by 5:45pm, as directed, to find that it has been converted into what must rank as the coolest bar in Africa. All the furniture, the bar itself, the bar stools, tables and sofas are locally made and unexpectedly comfortable. We walked past the bar and onto the sunset deck, which has been very cleverly positioned to create a breath-taking sundowner experience. The hotel’s own Dohw sailing boat sat photogenically in the foreground, there was a Mangrove forest to the right and the sea took up the rest of the vista, into which the sun rapidly plopped. Soon after, the colours turned a magnificent palette of pinks before yielding to the night and a mesmerising display of stars.

There are several other bars and eating areas at Fundu and during the three nights we were there we ate in each: the main restaurant, on the beach and by the pool, all of which had their own charm, but the abundance of lobster at the beach barbeque was probably our culinary highlight. Generally, the food was very good and sensibly adapted to western tastes, but with a local twist always available. Fundu doesn’t try to offer high-end fine-dining and it would seem out of character if it did, although, with all the salad and vegetables grown locally there is a real sense of care and quality in the food.

Diving at Fundu

The next day we headed for the dive centre, which was idyllically located at the end of a spur off the jetty. Roberto and the charming Carmen were the dive instructors and they had talked to us the previous evening about the diving so, after a bit of paperwork, we were off. The corals were pristine and some of the best in the world, with virtually no bleached coral and every colour and variety imaginable. In such a healthy ecosystem the number and diversity of fish, from multi-coloured reef fish to big pelagic shoals, was also magnificent. Quite by chance, after our first dive, as we sat on the little dive boat to be visited by two humpback whales, a mother and her calf, which was a magical moment. Whilst on the subject of sea mammals, we also went on a dolphin safari and saw the biggest school of spinner dolphins I have ever seen. They were in fine form and seemed to perform their astonishing acrobatics just for us.

After the dive we had lunch by the main pool, which is set well above the beach. It’s an infinity pool, draped in a variety of palm trees, and with a view from it that makes you feel that there’s literally nowhere else in the world you’d rather be. There are only 18 rooms at Fundu, so you naturally socialise with the other guests, most of whom were British and all of whom had come from a few days at a game park, either in Tanzania or Kenya, as had we. We all agreed that this was a perfect combination of experiences. The game parks are glorious, but we all felt that three or four days was probably enough, which made the proximity of Fundu and contrasting the beauty of the African savannah with a tropical island paradise, so very special and unlike anything else the world has to offer. What certainly added to this was the fact that we were only two hours ahead of the UK (during BST, three hours on GMT), which means that it is possible to enjoy this unbeatable double-header in as little as a week.

However, leaving Fundu was not easy because we would happily have stayed longer. The days flew by with every moment packed with a different thrill, one of which was meeting one of the owners, a Londoner called Alex, who told us the story of how Fundu was created. It is an incredible story, about which a book has been written, called Fundu Lagoon, Realising the Dream, which made being part of it feel even more of a privilege. As we sped across the water to begin our journey home, we all agreed that we would return without hesitation.


Toby Marchant
Toby Marchant

Luxury Explorer